Message From The Author
Bad Girl Makes Good
in Pamela Morsi's Contemporary Debut
by Tara Gelsomino
Pamela Morsi had nothing to complain about. A newlywed in her 40s, the author had a flourishing career writing homespun Americana historical romances. She was a two-time RITA winner. She consistently landed on mass-market charts and the romance bestseller lists at USA Today, Waldenbooks and Barnes and Noble. Her 1996 novel, Simple Jess, which features a mentally disabled hero, was singled out for both critic and reader raves. All in all, one could quite accurately say she was doing good.
Yet Pamela was ready for something new. "It had become clear over the last few years that the historical seems to be in bad times. I don't like suspense or women in jeopardy so I thought I'd try something different," she explains. "I'd always heard that publishers were so regimented and would only accept certain things [in a manuscript]. But thankfully, I didn't find that at all."
That may be understating it a bit. Her newest novel, also named DOING GOOD, is a contemporary, not a historical. It's a book focusing more on relationships, not romance. And newest of all, the heroine Jane is a liposuctioned, catty country club socialite. Her daughter Brynn, whom she had under protest, has been in therapy her whole life and is not speaking to her. Her husband is having an affair with a tacky blond hairdresser. But Jane's not one to whine. In fact, she's pulling in millions a year as a realtor, she's a chairperson for the Junior League and she has created a beautiful home for her family. No one who knew poor but ambitious teenager Janey Domschke would ever think to connect her with polished, successful Jane LoftonThank God! In short, she thinks she's doing good.
Wait, you may be saying, you're telling me that Pamela Morsi, queen of the nice, sweet heroines has a new book starring awitch? Well, witch might be a little strong but, Jane isn't quite the lovable, huggable lady that often populates Pam's booksat least at the beginning. So what did Mira think about such an unconventional heroine?
"I was really lucky because Dianne Moggy, my editor at Mira, loved DOING GOOD from the get-go." Pamela's risk paid off, as the new publisher offered her a three-book contract on the first 20 or so pages, which conclude just as Jane makes a crucial vow that if God should save her from a car about to explode that she would spend her life doing only good.
Salvation comes in a rather miraculous way, as an ailing elderly man at a nearby nursing home comes to her rescue. When Janewho is mentally scarred but physically unharmed by the accidentlater visits her savior Chester to thank him, she discovers that he had made a similar pledge in his past, and
he soon serves as her mentor in changing her life.
Not that it's all wine and roses from that point on. Jane doesn't exactly change her stripes overnight. Her determination is still slightly selfish in nature, as Jane goes about giving herself points for each good deed she undertakes, but as she sticks to it, Jane's do-gooding leads to more changes in her life including her career, her friends, her marriage and her relationship with her daughter. "Traumatic events, as we found out recently, tend to knock us out of our comfort zone and make us reevaluate our lives. What helps to keep Jane [committed to it] is Chester. At first, Chester is her impetus to continue then of course it becomes second nature."
The relationship between Jane and Chester is the primary one in the novelalthough late in the book a romance develops between Jane and that reclusive, appropriately offbeat owner of the junkshop Jane frequents from time to time as a guilty pleasurequite a switch from Pam's usual romances. "I'm at a time in my life when I'm looking at those generational gaps. Older people are such a wonderful source of stories, a real resource. Unfortunately we don't always take time to listen."
Her next novel, a 2003 Mira release, will dabble in this same territory, centering around four generations of women living in the same house: a 70-year-old mother, a 42-year-old main heroine, a 21-year-old daughter, and a 3-year-old granddaughter.
"It's like a multigenerational Little Women," Pam joked. "Teresa Medeiros said to me once, 'The mother in your books is always dead. What does that mean?' I love my mom and she's very much alive, but I think that all of us have some kind of mother thing, some kind of baggage in that relationship."
Pam will continue to try different mainstream women's fiction stories on for size, taking a little departure from her historicals for a while, but she confesses that she doesn't think she could ever completely leave the genre. "I think it's time [that the genre changes/expands]," Pam says. "People miss tremendous amounts of great stories because they won't read romance, and romance readers who read nothing else do the same. I love love stories and will always include them in my books, but it would be very freeing to think I could just worry about coming up with a good story and the rest would take care of itself." Pipe dreams aside, it's clear that Pamela is definitely doing good.
For more information on Pam's books visit her website, www.pamelamorsi.com.
Excerpt from DOING GOOD
In memory I heard my own voice pleading.
"I don't want to die. Get me out of here. Get me out of here and I'll be a better person. I'll change my life. I'll do good. I promise I'll do good."
I shivered. It must be post-traumatic stress or something.
I tried to laugh at my own desperation. I could only imagine what Tookie or Teddy or Lexi would think about my ravings. Brynn would have offered me a seat beside her on the therapist's couch. David would have insisted I get medication.
People always talk like that when they are scared. They always try to make deals with God. What was that old wartime adage? There are no atheists in foxholes. That's all my "prayer" had been. Some kind of mid-brain survival superstition. It was a normal human stress reaction to a life-and-death situation. Anyone in the same place would have said pretty much the same thing.
And my words certainly had nothing to do with my being rescued. If all it took to get out of trouble were some heavenward mutterings, nobody would ever get hurt or die.
I had been saved by sheer chance and dumb luck. A man, awakened by the sound of the wreck, had acted spontaneously to help a stranger.
No higher power had intervened. That idea was silly.
I believed in God, of course. David and I were members of one of the oldest most influential churches in the city. But I would never be one
of those over-made-up, fanatic women crying on TV preacher talk shows about a miracle that had happened in their life.
Still, it wouldn't hurt me to do something good.
I approached the idea almost as if I were sticking a pin in a voodoo doll. It felt strange, superstitious, out of my control. I didn't like those kinds of feelings. I wasn't comfortable with them.
But I was glad to be alive. There was no harm in making a gesture of appreciation for that. The man from the retirement home had helped me.
It wasn't a bad idea to pass that on, to help somebody else.
Visit www.pamelamorsi.com or write her at Pamela Morsi mail, 7th Flr, HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.
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